Students entering the seventh grade starting in the 2017-2018 school year at Puyallup schools next fall won’t have to stress about their oversized binder of notes or their pesky dog eating their homework.
All seventh-graders will each receive a Lenovo Yoga 11E laptop that runs on Windows Microsoft 365 that will be theirs to keep throughout their schooling. The main organizing tool they will use is the Microsoft program One Note, essentially a digital notebook to organize all their notes and assignments.
“Our goal is to no longer have that three-ring binder that explodes,” said Mark Vetter, the district’s executive director of instructional technology. “You will have all those notes in the One Note, but not just saved in the computer, but also saved in the cloud.”
Eventually, students K-12 will each have a terabyte of storage in the cloud.
“From K to 12 they can retain their portfolio digitally until they graduate and go off to work,” Vetter said. “Technology has finally gotten to the point where it’s seamless and integrated into learning.”
From K to 12 they can retain their portfolio digitally until they graduate and go off to work. Technology has finally gotten to the point where it’s seamless and integrated into learning.
Mark Vetter, Puyallup School District executive director of instructional technology
Over the next five years laptops will slowly be phased across grades 4 to 12, and the school district will transition from traditional textbooks to digital learning curriculum. The days of having multiple textbooks to choose from are gone, Vetter said.
“The market (for textbooks) is shrinking,” he explained.
Three years ago the district started to have discussions around investing in its own curated digital curriculum.
“In 2015, a group of social study teachers came together to develop current world problems digital curriculum,” Vetter said. “We could have invested $150 to $175 in each textbook, but we invested in a digital curriculum that our teachers owned, developed and shared.”
In December of that same year the Puyallup School Board approved the Empowering Puyallup initiative that aimed to encompass all the efforts to mobilize the district toward the digital age, including the development of a learning management system, moving from textbooks to digital learning, and providing a computer to students in grades 4 to 12.
Last year, after evaluating and testing various learning management systems, a committee of 40 teachers, students, parents and staff adopted Schoology.
“We had a really cool event on a Saturday to choose the platform we wanted,” Vetter said. “This is our first year of implementation of Schoology. It’s an evolution, not a revolution.”
Schoology is used by educators in the Student Learning Department to develop new digital curriculum. Schoology currently is being rolled out at the junior high and high school levels in the areas of civics, current world problems, and science courses. After teachers learn the system, Schoology will be rolled out to grades K to 12.
Within Schoology, teachers will be able to store resources such as course materials, documents and videos that they can share with other teachers, their students, and parents. Schoology enables students to take assignments and receive instant feedback from their teacher, or also take quizzes and tests. Schoology is available as an app on a smartphone device, so students can check assignment deadlines anywhere, anytime, and parents can also shadow them.
“As teachers over the next two to three years learn how to use Schoology effectively and kids use their device, it will transform that communication,” Vetter said.
Students at the secondary level will be allowed to take home their device for extended learning. Vetter said the district decided to go with a full-fledged computer with storage capacity, so students without Wi-Fi access at home could easily download materials at school to be able to access them from the hard drive at home.
This past December the district unveiled two model sixth grade classrooms at Edgerton Elementary School, demonstrating the “Classroom of the Future,” piloting the Lenovo laptop, and other cool learning tools like large LCD screens, stylus digital ink pens, and ergonomic furniture like adjustable tables for students to stand — not sit — and comfy bean bag chairs to sit and do assignments.
Tara Harrison, a sixth grade teacher in one of the model classrooms, is excited with the direction the district is headed.
“The amount of information at our fingertips is amazing,” Harrison said. “Our discussions are richer.”
By the end of March, students in Harrison’s class, as well as Amy Tutty’s model sixth grade class, will start using One Note on their laptops. These students are early adopters of the laptop and will be mentors to incoming seventh-graders next fall.
Sixth-grader Jonah Black said having all his assignments and notes on the laptop in one place is refreshing, compared to the old way of hauling it around in his three-ring binder.
“It’s honestly way easier,” Black said.
Tutty said student engagement has gone way up.
“Our behavior problems have gone way down,” Tutty said. “They’re excited to be here. They want to learn.”
Empowering Puyallup information night
Parents, especially those of students entering the seventh grade next fall, are welcome to attend information nights to learn about the Empowering Puyallup initiative. The information nights are from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., May 2 at Emerald Ridge High School, May 9 at Rogers High, and May 16 at Puyallup High.